Parenting in the time of COVID

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Over the past six weeks, I’ve often wondered how I would feel in the current housebound situation of COVID-19 if my life were different. Mainly, if I wasn’t a parent.

I saw a tweet last week (or maybe the week before, let’s be honest the days are all blending together at this point) that really made me think about the person I used to be and how she would be feeling right now.

I don’t know that was the exact tweet I saw, but the sentiment is there. This pandemic has brought forth a lot of conversations in the public sphere — universal basic income, who really is an essential worker, the government’s responsibility for its citizens, etc. It’s also brought forth the age-old us vs them argument of those who work who have kids and those who don’t.

I really began thinking about this even more today when a few of those I follow on Twitter retweeted the following tweet:

See, I used to be one of the people in the first tweet. I guess all of us parents were once these people, but I know I was. When I worked in a corporate city job, I loathed my colleagues with kids. And that’s putting it kindly. I would roll my eyes when the work from home days arrived because she (and it was always a she) was home with a sick kid unexpectedly, or when I was expected to do an evening or weekend work because I just had a boyfriend at home, not a family.

I loathed it all. Never mind the fact that a lot of this was in my head. I likely was looked at as the one who would work the odd evening or weekend because I was dedicated to my job and likely was (and still is) a workaholic who can’t really say no. I take great joy in what I do for a living. It defines a lot of who I am, but at that time, I was filled with resentment for not being valued as a person just because I hadn’t procreated yet.

Now, here I am. A mom to one little rambunctious boy who just started school this year and had it disrupted by teachers’ strike days and then a global pandemic. A boy who, because he had a cough the week school ended, thinks he’s still at home because he has “a little cough” that’s “almost gone.” I’ve been lucky recently — both my husband and I are still working, and I’ve had a somewhat different than normal schedule which means I haven’t been trying to work from home and parent. I also have a very supportive husband, who has “picked up the slack,” as some would put it, and who is the primary parent while I’ve been working. I know not every woman is as lucky to have such a support system.

Over the past six weeks, I have wondered what it would be like to going through this pandemic without a kid or a partner. I can only imagine how lonely it would be at times, and how work would almost feel like a refuge. I also wonder what it would due to my marriage. I love my husband very much, but I feel like our son is sometimes the buffer and break for us both. He grounds us.

I think we have to remember through all of this that it’s tough for everyone.

It’s tough for single people and married people. For those with kids, those without, and those who want kids but have had their hopes put on a shelf as I imagine fertility treatments may be on pause.

It’s tough for parents who are both trying to work from home full-time, while parenting and trying to teach their kids at home. It’s tough for those without kids or other people in their homes who may be working more than normal just to feel productive.

It’s tough for those who are graduating from high school this year, who won’t see the rest of their school year, and those who have graduated from university without pomp and circumstance.

It’s tough for seniors — both those still at home alone and those who are at a seniors’ home, where an outbreak could happen and visitors are no longer welcome.

Maybe instead of complaining how one group has it tougher than another, we could start to recognize how this situation is tough for everyone and we’re all just trying to do the best we can.

It won’t happen today, but maybe some day those with children and those without will no longer look at the other group like they have it easier. We’ll recognize that everyone is just trying to get through life one day at a time. That just because the grass looks greener, doesn’t mean it is.

And if you’re childless and you work at a job where you’ve been told you can “pick up the slack because you don’t have children,” then it’s not your colleagues with kids you should resent. It’s your employer.

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